Part 2 of 2

The Christmas scene is familiar, yet there are always new things to learn. In the previous study, we saw events that laid the foundation for the miracle of the incarnation (the coming of the Son of God to earth in human flesh). It was a major turning point in history. If you doubt that, you might want to obtain a copy of the fascinating book What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? In it the authors show the tremendous influence Christ and His followers have had on human history.

The Bible tells us that "when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman" (Gal. 4:4). In God's providence, Jesus was born just at the right time, when everything was in readiness. Now, Luke continues the amazing story by bringing together two important mothers-to be.

(Please read Luke 1:39-45)

1) Where did Mary go, after Gabriel left her (vs. 39-40)?

2) What two remarkable things happened when the two women met (vs. 41)?

INSIGHT: The Greek word for "filled" can also be translated fulfilled. The filling of the Spirit is a way of describing His special enablement, given to individuals so that they can fulfil God's purpose. In this case, the outcome of Elizabeth's enabling by the Lord was that she was given prophetic insight into what had happened to Mary.

3) What supernatural understanding did Elizabeth have about the identity of Mary's Baby (vs. 43)?

4) What awareness did Elizabeth have about Mary's response to Gabriel's message (vs. 45)?

INSIGHT: What follows, in vs. 46-55 sometimes is called the "Magnificat," taken from the Latin for "My soul magnifies [glorifies] the Lord." Though the Bible doesn't say so specifically, likely the Holy Spirit "filled" Mary, as He had Elizabeth, enabling her to pour forth this inspired hymn of praise to God.

(Please read Luke 1:46-55)

5) Some have sought to exalt Mary almost to the level of Christ Himself. But how does Mary see herself (vs. 48)?

6) What statement shows Mary realized she was a sinner in need of God's grace (vs. 47)?

7) What are some of the attributes of God that are celebrated in Mary's song (vs. 49-50)?

7b) What do these attributes mean to us, today?

8) According to Mary's song, through what kind of people is God willing to work (vs. 50, 52, 53, 54)?

INSIGHT: The coming of Christ is rooted in the Abrahamic Covenant (vs. 55). In particular, God had said to him, "In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen. 12:3; compare Lk. 2:10, "to all people"). That is the potential of the salvation purchased for us on the cross. It is an eternal blessing accessible to the whole the human race, through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8-9).

(Please read Luke 1:56-66)

9) Putting vs. 26 and vs. 56 together, it seems that Mary stayed with Zacharias and Elizabeth until what happened?

10) When John was born (vs. 58), there was a disagreement over what his name should be. What was expected by tradition (vs. 59-61)?

10b) How was the argument finally settled (vs. 62-63)?

11) What happened to Zacharias, the moment he named the baby (vs. 64)?

12) What is the significance of these two things (vs. 64) coming together (compare vs. 13, 20)?

12b) Can you think of a situation where tradition might get in the way of doing God's will today?

13) It is possible Mary was quite a young girl at this time. What kinds of things might she have learned, staying with John's parents as long as she did?

INSIGHT: The mysterious events surrounding the birth of John brought fear to the community. And they raised questions as to what kind of special work John was destined for (vs. 65-66). In it all, God was preparing the way for His Son.

(Please read Luke 1:67-80)

14) Zacharias had no illusion that his son was the promised Messiah. By the filling of the Spirit (vs. 67) he was given prophetic insight as to John's ministry. What was it to be (vs. 76; cf. 1:17)?

INSIGHT: Through the Spirit of God, Zacharias, as well as Elizabeth, understood who the Baby was in Mary's womb. Note that he states, "the Lord God...has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David" (vs. 68-69). Zacharias and Elizabeth were from the tribe of Levi. It was Mary who was from David's tribe of Judah.

15) Like Elizabeth earlier, Zacharias sees the coming of the Saviour as a fulfilment of what (vs. 72-73)?

INSIGHT: Some churches in our day have opted to set aside the hymn book and sing only simple choruses. The rationale sometimes given is that this is a return to a more scriptural form of worship. It is claimed the hymns are too "doctrinal" or fact-oriented. Something more "contemporary," is preferred, something to stir the emotions. However, one need only consider the songs of Mary and Zacharias (not to mention the entire book of Psalms) to realize that truly scriptural songs are loaded with doctrinal and rational truth. By using them we are to "teach and admonish" one another (Col. 3:16).

INSIGHT: As with Jesus after him, we are given few details about the childhood of John. He remained in obscurity until the time God would lead him to begin his work as the "announcer" of the Messiah's coming (vs. 80).

(Please read Luke 2:1-7)

16) What is the importance of vs. 1-2? That is, why would God lead Luke to include this information?

17) Whose command brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem (vs. 1, 3-4)?

18) Why was their trip important to Bible prophecy (compare Micah 5:2)?

19) What does this event affecting the whole Roman world tell us about how God works out His will and purpose for us?

20) Was there some practical reason why the inn was full when Mary and Joseph arrived (vs. 7)?

21) What are some reasons people have "no room" for Christ today?

(Please read Luke 2:8-20)

22) What three wonderful titles does the angel give Jesus (vs. 11)?

INSIGHT: "Christ" is the Greek translation of the Hebrew "Messiah," meaning Anointed One.

INSIGHT: As a direct descendant of David, Jesus had a right to the throne of Israel. The wise men who came seeking Him expected that, being a King, He would likely be born in a palace in Jerusalem (Matt. 2:1-2). Instead He was born in a stable.

23) How do you think the manner of Jesus' birth affected His later ministry?

24) Why do you think the angel gave a description of how the Baby Jesus would look (vs. 12)? (Hint: Matt. 2:16.)

25) What did the shepherds do when they got the good news from the angels (Lk. 2:15, 16, 17, 20)? And are there lessons in this for us?

26) Do you think most people today find "great joy" in Christ's coming, at Christmas time? Why? (Or why not?)

27) In the many Christmas cards, and carols, and programs of the Christmas season, what important truths about Christ's birth are emphasized?

27b) In your opinion, what important truths are sometimes missing from these?

27c) Why is this so? And what can we do about it?

A Christmas Bible Study (Part 1 of 2)